How Much Is a Pokémon Card Worth?
From March 2021 to March 2022, The Pokemon Company printed approximately 9 billion Pokemon cards. This is more cards than have ever been printed in a single year, and it's due to the massive success the industry has had in recent years.
Even if you're not an avid collector, it's likely you have at least some Pokemon cards sitting in your closet or in an old box somewhere. But did you know some of these cards from 20 years ago could make you big bucks today?
The amount of money you can make on your collection depends on a few different factors. Each Pokemon card is different, so it can sometimes be hard to tell how much you can sell your cards for exactly. Read on to discover how to determine your Pokemon card worth and get the most bang for your buck.
The History of Pokemon Cards
The Pokemon franchise was born with the Pokemon Red and Green games for the Game Boy Advance on February 27, 1996.
After the success of these two games, Japanese publisher Media Factory released the first Pokemon TCG set in Japan in September that same year.
Wizards of the Coast, the American company that created the Magic the Gathering trading card games, published the first English Pokemon trading card set in 1999 - the First Edition Base Set. The TCG is what caused the Pokemon craze in the United States in the 90s and early 2000s.
Since 2003, The Pokemon Company International has handled all Pokemon TCG releases. Since the game's inception, Wizards of the Coast and the Pokemon Company International have released at least one set every calendar year.
How to Determine Pokemon Card Worth
There are five main factors that determine a Pokemon card's worth. The card's rarity, set, and condition make up the big three, while considering whether your card is holographic or a possible misprint can add some extra value.
Most of the cards in your collection will be basic and go for less than a dollar. However, studying the factors below can help you quickly identify which cards will be your money-makers.
The first step to determining Pokemon card worth is finding its rarity. However, this doesn't mean that there are fewer of these cards in existence necessarily. What we're talking about is the rarity symbol often found in the bottom right corner of your card.
The rarities are as follows:
- Black Circle - Common
- Black Diamond - Uncommon
- Black Star - Rare
- Black Star with "PROMO" - Promo
For the most part, these conventions are simple. If you have a black circle or diamond on your card, you know it's not worth much money. Some rare or promo cards might not even be worth that much!
You should also look out for Ultra Rare cards that come with a star symbol along with text that signifies an extra, more powerful game mechanic. Types of Ultra Rare cards include:
- Pokemon ex - These will include lowercase letters ex next to the rarity. They're found in any EX series sets, such as Unseen Forces, Sandstorm, and Hidden Legends. The rarity last appeared in 2007.
- Pokemon Star - These will have a star symbol next to the rarity. They were first introduced in the EX Team Rocket Returns set and were included in the rest of the EX sets until 2007.
- Pokemon LV.X - Found in the Diamond & Pearl as well as the Platinum sets.
- Pokemon EX - Not to be confused with the lowercase ex Ultra Rare cards, the capital EX cards were included in Next Destinies and made their way into the Black and White and XY series from 2011 to 2016.
- VSTAR - This designation is in the latest Pokemon set, Sword and Shield - Brilliant Stars. These cards have VSTAR written right next to the Pokemon name, making them easy to identify from basic cards in the new set.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you see any unique symbols in your collection, a quick search will tell you how much that particular rarity is worth.
The Set the Card Came From
What makes one Pikachu more valuable than the next? The set that the Pikachu was printed in. Though there are high-value cards in the latest sets, it's no surprise that the most expensive cards come from earlier eras in the game's history.
The First Edition Base Set often sells for the highest prices, with rare cards like shadowless Charizards, Blastoises, and Venusaurs. Other valuable sets include Pop Series 5, Neo Destiny, and Dragon Frontiers.
Each card has a set symbol located on the bottom right, except for the First Edition Base Set, which doesn't have a symbol.
Even if you have a rare card from an earlier set, its value can plummet if it's not in the right condition. Any visible scratches or tears can greatly devalue a card. Most people want them in mint condition - but depending on the card, there is still a market for the less well-kept ones.
When you look on eBay or other selling websites, you will likely see trading cards with "grades." This is a system numbered one through ten, with one being the worst at a "Poor" grade and 10, "Gem Mint" being the highest. Most cards sell at grade 7 or higher.
Professional Sports Authenticator, or PSA, is the most well-known card grader in the industry. They have a detailed list accompanied by pictures to show what constitutes each grade.
Are They Holo?
Holographic or holofoil cards are the easiest ones to spot in your collection. The art is shiny, hence the name "holographic."
These are the most sought-after cards and the number one things collectors look for when cracking open a fresh pack or box.
There are a few different types of holographic cards.
- Holo - The art of the Pokemon will be holographic
- Reverse Holo - Everything except for the art will be holographic
- Full Art Holo - The entire card will be holographic
Sometimes, you will see mistakes in printings. The most common of these is a misalignment of the art on your card, whether on the front or the back. You can tell the art is misaligned when one side of the card's border is narrower than the other.
These misprints can sometimes add plenty of value to your card, as it makes it rarer. There are many collectors that pay extra for these cards with printing errors.
However, if you're looking to get something professionally graded, misalignment will deduct points from your grade. A card with a printing imperfection can only be a Mint 10 if the misalignment is slight and does not take away from the card's appearance.
The Highest-Selling Pokemon Cards in History
When you put many of these factors together, it is possible to find some cards that sell for thousands, or even millions of dollars. Here are the three highest-selling Pokemon cards in history to demonstrate what makes a Pokemon card worth money.
3. Blastoise Wizards of the Coast Presentation Card
There are only two of these Blastoise cards in existence, and one was presented at auction in 2021 to the shock of the entire Pokemon TCG fanbase. It is the only card of the two to be seen by the public, meaning it very well could be the only Blastoise presentation card left.
Wizards of the Coast commissioned this card in 1998 to convince Nintendo to allow the company to create English-language cards in the United States. As Wizards of the Coast created the card a year before the official launch of the card game internationally, it is one of the oldest Pokemon cards.
The card is also in almost perfect condition, as the certification website CGC graded it at a NM/Mint+ 8.5.
Due to all these factors, the card sold at a stunning $360,000 at auction. If the other Blastoise card is out there, it could shoot this card up to the #1 spot on this list one day.
2) Shadowless First Edition Charizard (Holographic)
Charizard has been a fan-favorite Pokemon since it appeared on the box of the very first games back in 1996. It's no wonder that this holographic Charizard card is one of the most valuable Pokemon cards of all time.
The normal First Edition holographic Charizard is often a top-seller, but what makes this card special is that it's missing the shadows around the borders of the art. Shadowless means the card was in the first print run - the second print run is where you see the shadows.
Iconic Auctions, which auctioned off one of these grade 10 mint-condition cards in 2020, described it as "the most coveted" of all cards. The lot sold for $220,575.40 to the retired rapper Logic.
This auction was the first in a long string of high-price Charizard sales. The card sold in November 2020 for $350,100 and again in December 2020 for $369,000. Another grade 10 Charizard sold in January 2021 for $300,000.
However, a grade 10 shadowless First Edition Charizard smashed these records in March 2022, selling for $420,000. This remains the highest this particular card has sold, and it is the third highest price point ever paid for a Pokemon trading card.
1) Pikachu Illustrator
The Pikachu Illustrator card is the highest-selling Pokemon card of all time - and for good reason. The Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic gave 39 copies of this card out to winners of their illustrating contests in 1997 and 1998. It is unknown how many of these cards still remain in the world today.
The Pikachu Illustrator card is the only card to say "Illustrator" in place of "Trainer" at the top. It also features a double star rarity, which only some Japanese promo cards have.
In 2019, a PSA grade 9 Pikachu Illustrator sold for $195,000. In, 2021, a grade 7 sold for $375,000. Then, in 2022, another grade 7 sold for a stunning $900,000 - the single highest winning bid on a Pokemon card at that time.
The near-million dollar sale in 2022 was only beaten out by internet celebrity Logan Paul, who purchased a grade 10 Pikachu Illustrator in a private sale for $5.275 million dollars. He exchanged his own PSA 9 Illustrator, worth approximately $1.275 million, in addition to another $4 million. Paul now holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokemon card sold in a private sale.
Preserving Card Worth
Keeping your valuable cards in an old binder from 1999 is not the best way to preserve your collection's worth. When you discover you have a high-value card, always ensure you have the right storage tools to keep it safe from wear and tear.
Your first investment should be penny sleeves. These clear sleeves come in larger packs and come out to about a penny per sleeve, hence the name. They are made from thin plastic and are best used for less-valuable cards in your collection to prevent tears and scratches.
A step-up from penny sleeves, toploaders are more durable sleeves made from rigid plastic. They are made to keep your cards from bending. Always put your card in a penny sleeve before putting it into a toploader.
If you're looking to get your cards graded, grading companies will ask you to put your cards in a toploader first. This will keep them from taking any damage in the mail.
A binder will keep all your valuable cards neatly organized and safe from harm. Trading card binders come with special sleeves made for storing cards. As with toploaders, you should keep them single or double-sleeved inside your binder pockets for extra protection.
How Valuable Is Your Collection?
Now that you know all there is to know about Pokemon card worth, it's time to take a look at your collection and find the most valuable cards. Whether you want to sell them, keep them on your mantle, or slot them into your favorite deck, knowing the value of what you have is a source of pride for any collector.
When you want to expand your collection, come to Breaking Bangers for the latest news and tips on your favorite trading card games. We also sell the hottest trading cards from games like Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Flesh and Blood, and more with free shipping on orders over $125.